As a part of my job with the New Pittsburgh Courier I attend a lot of dinners. I am grateful to be a guest of the organizations and individuals who are presenting some very swanky events.  I get to see a lot of things from the inside out. Recently, I witnessed multiple incidents of improper etiquette. I know it is difficult for people who don’t eat out often, so I thought I would pass on some information that I think will be helpful.

If you receive an invite to a dinner, especially a wedding reception or birthday party, the person who is planning the party needs to have a good head count so they can properly order the meals and have adequate seating. These meals do not come cheap; depending on the venue you are looking at a cost of $25 to $60 a person.  So let’s say the guest of honor receives responses for 100 people and then 150 show up, that is a problem. Now you have 50 people who did not respond to the invite expecting to be fed and seated.  The kitchen goes crazy—they have to add more tables, prepare more food and charge the person having the event more money. Most places want their money days before the event takes place so when the day of the event rolls around you want all to be handled. Who wants to dig in their pocket for more money? Most people will not turn the guests who did not RSVP away.

Speaking of RSVP, the term RSVP comes from the French expression “répondez s’il vous plaît,” meaning “please respond.” If RSVP is written on an invitation, it means the invited guest must tell the host whether or not they plan to attend the party. It does not mean to respond only if you’re coming, and it does not mean respond only if you’re not coming (the expression “regrets only” is reserved for that instance). An incomplete list of respondents can cause numerous problems for a host including difficulty in planning food quantities, issues relating to minimum guarantees with catering halls, uncertainty over the number of party favors and difficulties in planning appropriate seating, among other things. So the next time you see RSVP on an invitation you receive, please call your host and respond promptly.

Now that you are at the dinner, please know where your roll is and your drink. I was so impressed with a group of students at the recent Kappa Scholarship dinner. One was telling the other how to tell which roll and drink were theirs. You make a small b with your left hand and a small d with your right. So your roll is at your left and drinks to your right. This will keep you from eating someone else’s bread. Ok, finally to the silverware. If there is a salad, begin your meal with the fork  furthest from your plate. It should also be smaller than the dinner fork. This stuff is not rocket science and you can find it all on the Internet.

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